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The [Friday] Papers

I'll be on a panel about corruption in Illinois politics on Saturday in Bensenville - you know, if you happen to be in the area. Details here.

Pot Shot
I wracked my brain trying to find the punch line to "Legal Pot Debuts In Midwest" and came up empty, but I think it has something to do with "McDonald's Crosses Big Mac, Snack Wrap."

Meter Madness
"Chicago's abrupt transfer of parking meters to a private company has drivers and business owners angry about erroneous overcharges and confusing enforcement rules," Jon Hilkevitch reports in the Tribune.

The Trib did spot checks around the city and found, basically, a real mess.

Meanwhile, The Expired Meter captured the arrest of a man for assaulting a meter.

And finally, it's not just that the cost of existing meters is going up, it's that meters are springing up where none previously existed. From the Beachwood mailbag:

1. One thing that I have recently noticed is that there are now parking meters where there once were none.

Check out the four new parking meters on the east side of Paulina next to the Jewel as you approach Blackhawk Street.

I also saw some on Clybourn where there weren't any before.

It's pretty easy to tell the difference of the old ones from the new ones.

The old one's poles are buried in the concrete of the sidewalk.

The new ones have a base plate that is bolted onto the top of concrete. You can even see freshly poured concrete on top of the bolts.

I am very sure they have added new meters across the city. . . was that part of the lease deal?

COMMENT 2:20 P.M.: A Beachwood reader writes:

"Yes, it was. Metered parking zones a require city council authorization. The city council has passed ordinances authorizing the installation of meters in many places where, for whatever reason, the city had never installed them. Extending that authority to the contractor to fill them in was part of the appeal of the deal."

2. Thing is, around my office there were five blocks relatively close by that did not have meters. That was free parking, if you got lucky. There were more such blocks a few years ago, but gradually, the sidewalks started sprouting meter stalks, and then a day later, the full-bloom collection box would appear. Well, just this week, starting Wednesday, three of the five free blocks near my office sprouted meter stalks. Now there are only two free streets, and I'm sure those are going the same way.

Secret Agent Man
"Last month, 46 Chicago aldermen signed their names to a City Council resolution demanding that city departments, the CTA and Chicago Public Schools outline their stimulus projects, the number of jobs those projects would create and the criteria for determining which projects would be funded," Fran Spielman reports in the Sun-Times

"Daley responded by releasing the city's list - minus the selection criteria and without consulting aldermen.

"On Thursday, a joint City Council committee held a hearing on the resolution, allowing aldermen to vent their anger about being dissed and about the mayor's decision to ignore what they called higher priorities.

"'If we called 311, we might have had better input in this thing,' said Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Allen (38th). 'The pattern of secrecy is what jumps out at me . . . We've seen this pattern before."

Only for about 20 years. So what are you going to do about it, Tom?

Secret Tax Ruling
"Mayor Daley and his wife, Maggie, have secured a 'rock-solid' legal opinion that states they have no tax obligation from the trips they took aboard a $31 million jet owned by a non-profit company under investigation by the IRS and Congress, a top mayoral aide said Thursday," Spielman also reports.

"Mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard refused to release the opinion, the legal rationale for it or the author. Nor would she say definitively how many trips the Daleys took courtesy of EduCap."

But she sounded "rock-solid" when she said it!

"On at least two of the mayoral flights - including a possible April, 2005 weekend trip to Cabo, Mexico to celebrate Daley's birthday -the mayor's office has no record of the travel because it it occurred over weekends and holidays that count as personal time.

"But, in order to avoid paying or owing taxes, Daley would presumably need to have worked in some official function. So he's trying to have it both ways."

It's a pattern Tom Allen has seen before.

Secret Police
"Private security guards patrolling three Far South Side commercial strips would be empowered to write tickets - for everything from parking and moving violations to loitering, littering and graffiti - under a groundbreaking plan that faces strong resistance from rank-and-file Chicago Police officers," Spielman also reports.

Here's an idea: Daley could sell off the police department just like the meters, the Skyway, and Midway Airport. In fact, seeing as how he's already privatized the mayor's office, why not just take the whole city private? Chicago LLC has a nice ring to it.

Public Pays To Play
Of course, private interests like to have the public to fall back on.

"House lawmakers approved legislation today guaranteeing the state would put up $250 million if a 2016 summer Olympics comes to Chicago and loses money," Ray Long of the Tribune reports.

"Backers of the legislation argue the state's financial risk is not very high because it would be unusual for an Olympics held in the United States to operate in the red. They say it's also been decades since any foreign-based Olympics has come up short."

Those statements must somehow distinguish between operating costs of the Games themselves over their two-week period versus the cost of putting on the whole extravaganza, as Pat Ryan has done before, or else they're just patently false. I'm wondering just what the state's guarantee, then, is restricted to. (It's also darkly amusing to hear legislators prognosticating about financial risk in times like these; are lessons ever learned? Nope.)

This also caught my eye:

"According to the legislation, should the state have to dip into the $250 million guarantee against operating losses" - yup, there it is - "an equivalent amount would be spent outside Cook County on road projects. That's a sweetener to get downstate and suburban lawmakers on board."

So, wait, does that mean if the state has to spend the whole $250 million it has to spend another $250 million on downstate and suburban roads? Doesn't that mean we're on the hook for $500 million - plus the city's $500 million, which basically equals a billion?

Price War
While the Sun-Times is raising its newsstand price from 50 cents to 75 cents, Time Out Chicago is going the other way and lowering its newsstand price from $2.99 to $1.99.


To attract more readers. Hint, hint.

Outrageous Outrage
"I didn't like the AIG bonuses," David Greising writes in the Tribune. "You didn't like the bonuses. Even AIG Chief Executive Edward Liddy didn't like the bonuses. Add up the outrage, though, and it still doesn't mean there oughta be a law."

Well, there oughta be a law insofar as these sort of guidelines should be - and should have been - written into bailout legislation. But I agree that going back and creating a special tax to recover the money sets a horrible precedent and makes even more of a mockery out of the tax code than it already is.

Plus, if the Daleys can get a "rock-solid" opinion on their tax situation . . .

Olympic Funds Fight
* USOC squabble with IOC could hurt Chicago's chances.

Airport Wars
* Three third airports and counting.

Quinn's Other Job
* He's still lieutenant governor, too. Sort of.

In Today's Beachwood
* The Five Dumbest Ideas of the Week. And the people who had them.

* On The Triple Crown Trail. With our man on the rail.

* Jockeys Becomes A Joke. With our man on the rail.

* Beachwood Brackets! Updated round-by-round.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Tiplineology.


Posted on March 20, 2009

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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